Dear 2021, Please Take Notes
A look back on the best years of my life and what 2021 can learn from them
In my 22 years of life, I've experienced some really good years. 2020 was not one of them. On a global scale, the world was dealing with a pandemic, widespread police brutality, and political madness. But on a personal level, my mental health was suffering, I encountered some financial problems, and I even lost some friends. Honestly, it wouldn't take much for you to be a step up from 2020, but I don't just want this year to be better than last year, I want it to be the best year I've ever had. I'm not one to try to relive my glory days, but there are simple things that have made the best years of my life, the best. And for 2021, I just want those simple moments back. The simple moments that made four years of my life stand out for the very best reasons. If I were you, I would take some notes.
This was the year I sat in front of the TV waiting for That's So Raven to premiere on Disney Channel. I watched intently as two people spun a wheel like on Wheel of Fortune with a bunch of Disney shows on it and groaned every time it would land on a show that wasn't That's So Raven. Finally, after hours of waiting, it happened and I shouted with excitement as the theme song began. Looking back, it was probably all planned that the show would premiere at that specific time, but that feeling of waiting for something for so long and finally getting it, supposedly by chance, is one that has been lost since then.
This was also the year I started kindergarten. Going to school for the first time and being told how good of a reader I was (thanks to Hooked on Phonics) and making friends, made me talk my parents' and my sisters' ears off about my days. Everyday seemed like it was better than the day before and everything I learned, I wanted to share.
And then I discovered the boy next door. A boy who was in the grade above me and was also the youngest in his family. I heard him kicking a soccer ball against the fence that divided our two backyards and I walked up to it to peak through a hole in the wood. He came to me and we talked through the slats and played catch with one another by throwing the ball back and forth over the fence. That was when I experienced the strange bubbly feeling in my stomach and the giddiness of going out into my backyard after school everyday and hearing him kicking his soccer ball.
If 2021 could bring back anything from 2003, it should be that feeling of being green; that feeling of the world being new and everything being exciting because of it.
Two words: Fifth grade.
When I started fifth grade, I officially became a top dog at school and I felt like it. My fifth grade class was divided into four main cliques: the girly girls, the loners, and then "Aaron's crew" and "Alex's crew." Aaron and Alex were the two most popular boys in our class and there was always the debate of which one was the most popular. I was a part of Alex's crew and me along with our three other friends, thought that we were the best clique there was. The rivalry was childish but that feeling of having a close group of friends and the loyalty we developed due to our innocent rivalry with Aaron's crew, was what made school fun.
Then there was my first party. I invited nearly all of the kids from my class to my house and all of them showed up. But the thing that made it great, was what happened in the backyard. As the sun started to set, my friends and I went into my backyard to play and as we sat in a circle playing truth or dare, my guy friend and I snuck away and kissed in the shadows of my house. A first kiss is something that you never forget, but when it happens at your first party, it's something that you never want to forget.
2008 was also the year that Barack Obama was elected president. For the first time in my (albeit, short) life, I saw someone who wasn't old and white running for president. And though I knew nothing about politics, it didn't really matter to me because I would turn on my TV and see a man who looked more like most of my family than any other president I had seen before. The night he was elected, I had this indescribable feeling of watching history as me and my whole family sat in silence, watching him and his Black wife and daughters thank the country for voting for him as the 44th president of the United States.
If 2021 could bring back anything from 2008, it should be that feeling of exploration. Being able to explore the world that I already know in new ways. Exploring what it means to be someone's friend, exploring what it means to have a crush, exploring what it means to have pride in a collective moment. In 2021, I want to be able to explore again.
In 2011, I started eighth grade and just like in fifth grade, I was a top dog and I definitely felt like it. In eighth grade, every teacher I had loved me because I was a good student and I really began to open up to people. This was also the year I really started to take chances. I tried out for the basketball team and made it and then I tried out for the track team in the spring and made it.
I also asked out a boy for the very first time. He was a friend of mine who I had a crush on. We would write letters back and forth that turned into something like comic strips and give them to each other in the hallway and laugh about it when we had our two classes together. When our eighth grade dance came around, I finally decided to take a chance and ask him to be my date. And wildly enough, he said yes.
There's something so liberating about taking big risks for the first time. I knew there was a chance of me not making the teams and a chance of my friend rejecting me, but I took those chances anyway.
If 2021 could bring back anything from 2011, it should be the courage and the confidence to take risks.
To this day, 2016 was the best year of my life. I graduated high school and then that summer I went on my first vacation with my friends instead of my family. I remember walking around Maryland for the first time and going to visit Washington D.C. I remember riding on a train for the first time and singing with my friends on the platform as we waited for another train when the first one broke down. And I even remember the panic that set in as we waited and waited and had to run through the airport in order to make our flight to get back home after waiting for hours for the train to arrive.
And then I went off to college. That first night alone after my family left, I felt a loneliness that I had never experienced before. But it subsided when I got invited by a high school friend of mine who happened to be at the same university, to go to her dorm and drink and play Cards Against Humanity.
Nothing could touch that first semester. There were many nights of recklessness induced by Four Lokos and... uh... herbs. My friends and I had no money and only one of us had a car, but we had each other and good vibes. Good vibes that allowed us to drive around the city with no destination in mind, just rapping along to songs like "Bad and Boujee" and "Caroline". Good vibes that made me happy just to walk across the parking lot from my dorm to go eat dinner in the school's dining hall with them. Good vibes that made nights of hunger and days of stealing napkins from spots on campus because I ran out of toilet paper, all worth it.
If 2021 could bring back anything from 2016, it should be the ability to find the good in the struggle.
2021 can never be 2003, 2008, 2011, or 2016, but it can bring back the feelings I had during those years. More than anything, I want this year to be the year I get reintroduced to the world and to myself. Because what made those four years the best, was learning how the world works and learning about who I am in this world.
So 2021, if you can give me that this year, I have no doubt in my mind that this will be the best year I've lived so far.
If you enjoyed this story, feel free to leave a like and/or tip and check out some of my other stories. Also, follow me on Instagram @c.r.hughes